Pregame: Starling Marte and Francisco Liriano updates

Brian Blanco

Starling Marte update

Two days removed from taking a knee to the head while sliding into second in Tampa Bay, Clint Hurdle said that Starling Marte's head and neck are not an issue. His right middle finger is being treated, and the team will know more about Marte's availability for tonight's game after the left fielder takes some swings in the batting cage this afternoon.

Josh Harrison will start in left field tonight.

Francisco Liriano update

Liriano threw a 30-pitch bullpen today. "Everything went as well as you could hope," Hurdle said of the session.

Liriano is scheduled for flat-ground work tomorrow and another bullpen on Sunday.

Rotation plans

Hurdle did not reveal the Pirates' plans for their rotation following Gerrit Cole's start on Saturday.

"We're still working through all the conversations we need to have. There are different things to look at" Hurdle said.

Josh Harrison at WAR

Josh Harrison has accumulated 1.5 WAR in his 206 plate appearances this season. Heading into the season, Harrison had only contributed 1.2 WAR for his career. ZiPS projects him adding 0.8 more WAR in 223 plate appearances the rest of the season.

Harrison's strong first half has led to some talk of him being included on the National League All-Star team roster as a utilityman (ala Ben Zobrist in 2009 and 2013). When a reporter about the possibility of Harrison's inclusion this afternoon, Hurdle said that it was a "thought that has merit."

Hard-hitting Bucs

Mark Simon of ESPN updated his hard-hit leaderboard this afternoon. Two Pirates, Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison, rank in the top four; while three Pirates, Jordy Mercer, Ike Davis and Neil Walker, rank in the bottom 60.

Here is the ranking and hard-hit percentage for each ranked Pirate (200 total qualified players):

McCutchen, 2nd - 25.2 percent

Harrison, 4th - 24.9 percent

Walker, 153rd - 14.6 percent

Davis, 165th - 13.6 percent

Mercer, 194th - 11.0 percent

Pirates soccer team?

Jeff Locke, Russell Martin, Gaby Sanchez and Gerrit Cole played a spirited game of two-on-two soccer in center field this afternoon following the United States vs. Germany match. While Cole and Locke looked the most like footballers, Martin had the best overall game.

My brief (and completely uninformed) scouting report:

  • Locke is doesn't have much of a right foot, but is lethal going left
  • Cole is explosive but somewhat erratic with his shot
  • Sanchez takes up space and uses his large frame well
  • Martin is an accurate distributor of the ball, above-average dribbler

I asked Martin what a Pirates' soccer team would look like and he came up with the following partial lineup:

Keeper: Mark Melancon

Left midfield: Jeff Locke

Center midfielder: Russell Martin

Striker: Andrew McCutchen

Center defender: Gaby Sanchez

Gregory Polanco describes Alen Hanson as an "amazing teammate"

When I interviewed Alen Hanson in Portland, he described Gregory Polanco as his "big brother" and "best friend". Today, I briefly talked to Polanco about his relationship with Hanson. He said they met in 2009 in Santo Domingo, when Hanson went there to play. He said that the two talk to each other almost every night, and that he is excited for Hanson to join him in the major leagues some day.

Polanco described Hanson as someone who "plays happy."

"He has fun. Stays in the game. He is aggressive. He is an amazing teammate. He never takes a day off, he always pushes. If you not doing something right, he is [tells you]. He is a strong leader."

No update on Hanson

There is no update on why Alen Hanson has missed the last five games for Altoona. Neither the Curve nor the Pirates have said anything else officially, so the latest remains Kyle Stark statement to Rob Biertempfel that Hanson was being given some time off from the lineup "to work on some things."

UPDATE: Hanson is not in the starting lineup tonight. He has not played since being removed in the first game of doubleheader Saturday in Portland.

Curve to pay tribute to Evan Chambers

This Sunday the Altoona Curve will pay tribute to 2012 Curve outfield Evan Chambers, who passed away at his home in Florida during the offseason. The Curve will wear jerseys in the likeness of the 1992 home jerseys worn by the Pirates, with each uniform carrying a patch on the left sleeve with the initials "EC."

Chambers was selected in the third round of the 2009 draft by the Pirates. He was promoted and played 31 games with the Curve in 2012.

"The mark of this young man was the impact he made on the lives around him," said Curve General Manager Rob Egan.  "I never saw him without a smile on his face and his positive attitude carried over to his charitable work off the field.  He embraced the chance to help others - especially kids.  That’s why it’s so appropriate that this special jersey auction will contribute funds to St. Jude."


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